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[210] were scarcely near enough for the shots to tell. We were not struck by the Essex, nor do I think we struck her. An army force was reported by a mounted home guard to be coming up the river to cut off our retreat. Stevens did not call a council of war, but himself assumed the responsibility of burning the ship. I recollect the look of anguish he gave me, and the scalding tears were running down his cheeks when he announced his determination. Read kept firing at the Essex until Stevens had set fire to the wardroom and cabin, then all jumped on shore, and in a few moments the flames burst up the hatches. Loaded shells had been placed at all the guns, which commenced exploding as soon as the fire reached the gun deck. This was the last of the Arkansas.

I am aware that the same class of people who accused the Tifts of treason (the stay-at-home-guards), were sure that the engineer had caused the engines to break down. I am also aware that many lawyers, doctors, planters, and gentlemen of elegant leisure, who had then been soldiering a twelve month, were sure they could have managed the business much better than the gallant and experienced naval officer who had it in charge. I am also aware that several old, influential and wealthy sugar planters were witnesses of the disaster, and gave it as their solemn and well considered opinion (Jack Bunsby was in the habit of giving ‘opinions’ also), that the vessel was ‘unnecessarily sacrificed!’ I trust that whoever undertakes our naval history will give due weight to the opinions, suspicions and insinuations referred to, always referring to their source.

We have now told all about the career of our great ship. We have gone with her through fire and smoke, death and destruction; and if the reader is so minded we will go back and learn something more of her. As related in the first chapter, she was built a short distance below the city of Memphis by Captain John T. Shirley. It seems that Captain Shirley organized in the early months of 1861 what he called a river brigade; but owing to the lack of facilities for operations he was compelled to disband his force. Not being content, however, to remain idle, he conceived the plan of building a couple of powerful gunboats for river service. The plan was adopted at Richmond, and the sum of $125,000 appropriated for the purpose. This sum was found totally inadequate, and in order to raise funds, which were supplied tardily by the Government, Captain Shirley was compelled to sell his homestead. Nothing daunted, the enthusiastic projector pushed forward. Competent mechanics were scarce, and he sent to St. Louis for them—for the

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